Campus News

University’s ‘mouse house’ undergoing major expansion

Robin Kavanaugh holds a mouse vivarium cage with a filtered air pump. Each cage can be furnished with filtered air and water when inserted into the vivarium rack.

Mice and humans will benefit from new equipment coming to the Coverdell Rodent Vivarium, also known as the “mouse house.” An award from the National Institutes of Health will increase the capacity of the facility, which provides care for rodents, and ensure more protection for the mice and their handlers.

The grant funds the acquisition of individually ventilated mouse cage systems and ventilated work stations for the vivarium, which is part of the University Research Animal Resources program. The cage systems, or IVCs, will increase the capacity of the vivarium by 22 percent, from 36,000 to a maximum of 42,000.

“This new equipment will have a ripple effect throughout the program,” said Dr. Christopher King, assistant vice president for research and director of the Office of Animal Care and Use. “Despite successive investments in new IVC systems, housing now available is sufficient only to meet current needs, with no additional capacity for new grants already approved for funding, new research or new faculty.”

Each IVC system comprises a tall vertical rack that supports 80 to 140 clear plastic cages. Every cage receives its own separate supply of highly filtered air and water, pumped in and out automatically.

The separate filtration protects the mice from diseases, reduces buildup of waste gases such as carbon dioxide and ammonia, and limits cross-contamination from mice in other cages. The systems also protect animal handlers by reducing their exposure to animal allergens and protect the research by reducing environmental variables such as humidity.

“Earlier generations of mouse caging did not provide as high a level of protection for the mice, personnel or the research,” said Dr. Leanne Alworth, assistant director of RAR/Life Sciences and attending veterinarian for the facility. Approximately 10 to 30 percent of people who care for laboratory animals have or develop allergies to the animals they tend, according to Alworth.

The new cages only are opened under special ventilated workstations that protect the mice, the environment and animal handlers.